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Apple's iPad Pro deserves more than iOS provides

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 11, 2015
As analysts look at the larger iPad, some make a case for 'padOS,' a derivative of iOS optimized for both touch and keyboard

While Blau acknowledged that when a device is different enough it deserves its own OS -- and that Apple "may be able to add things" to the iPad's skill set with an operating system forked from iOS -- he had not see any evidence from businesses that they balked at the tablet because of its current OS.

"It does raise some questions [including], 'Is iOS fully up to the task of supporting businesses with tablet computing?'" Blau said. "So far, the answer has been mostly 'Yes.'"

In many ways, the issue becomes one of where to draw the line when defining "tablet" and "notebook," Blau added. That line is changing and will become even more blurred down the road. Microsoft, for one, hopes so: It's aggressively promoted the Surface Pro as a tablet that can replace a notebook. Cook questioned in an interview last month why anyone would bother to buy a personal computer after the iPad Pro's appearance.

An operating system must keep pace with changes in a device's use case, Blau contended, but again said that there is not strong evidence that the iPad in general, or the iPad Pro specifically, is now at a pivotal point where iOS is not good enough as is. But that may change.

"Eventually, there will be a tighter coupling between the [desktop and mobile operating systems]," Blau said "I think we've always thought that the more portable OSes will move upstream, but they may not move to the level of OS X and Windows."

By "upstream" Blau meant not only larger form factors -- larger screen, in other words -- but also increased flexibility and thus an expanded portfolio of use cases.

None of the analysts felt qualified to suggest more than the most obvious changes to iOS to optimize it for the iPad Pro. Dawson, for example, would leave that to Apple's experts in UI and OS design.

But like good art or pornography, Dawson would know a suitable 2-in-1 OS when he sees it. And iOS isn't it.

"It's hard to put my finger on it," Dawson admitted when asked why as-is iOS isn't the right operating system for the iPad Pro, why Apple should craft a padOS and risk fragmentation within its tablet line. "But [as to] the lack of keyboard support, to what extent is this because they're trying to maintain the iOS experience?" he wondered.

"How can we take the iPad even further?" Cook asked rhetorically in September before revealing the 12.9-in. Pro.

Maybe by not just making it bigger, but different, Mr. Cook.

 

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